Boxing Legend Joe Frazier Dies Of Liver Cancer

Anton Toloui, Sky News sports producer
Sky News

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier has died from liver cancer at the age of 67.

Frazier will be best remembered for his three bouts with Muhammad Ali during the 1970s, widely regarded as the sport's greatest rivalry.

Born in South Carolina in 1944, Frazier fell in love with boxing at an early age after watching weekly fights on a black and white television on his family's farm.

He left his home at 15 to start a career in the sport and within four years was regarded as one of America's top amateurs.

He won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 1964, despite going into the final with an injured left thumb.

Frazier turned pro the following year and took the boxing world by storm, winning his first 19 fights.

In 1970, the man known as "Smokin Joe" was an undisputed world champion after beating Jimmy Ellis at Madison Square Garden in New York.

In the same year, Ali returned to the ring after losing his licence for refusing to fight in the Vietnam war. The two men were the biggest names in the sport and they finally met in 1971.

The so-called "Fight of the Century" lived up to the hype, going the full 15 rounds before Frazier managed to floor Ali in the 15th and final round to win on points.

The re-match in 1974 wasn't as spectacular in the ring but engrossed the public once more. This time Ali managed to get revenge, winning on points.

But the third fight of the series a year is seen by many as one of the greatest ever.

Named the "Thrilla in Manilla" it was another brutal contest both in and out of the ring.

Ali angered Frazier by calling him an "Uncle Tom" because of his all-white management team.

He also labelled "Smokin' Joe" a "gorilla", famously punching a stuffed toy in a pre-fight press conference.

When the pair met between the ropes it was a bruising classic. During the 13th Round, Ali unleashed a devastating attack on Frazier, causing him to bleed from the mouth. The fight was stopped at the end of the 14th with Ali the victor.

"I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration", Ali has said in a statement.

"My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones."

The Frazier family has also released a statement:

"He transitioned from this life as 'One of God's Men', on the eve of November 7, 2011 at his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"We thank you for your prayers for our father and vast outpouring of love and support.

"Our father's home going celebration will be announced as soon as possible."

In later years, Frazier ran a gym in Philadelphia after falling into financial troubles. But his impact on the sport will never be forgotten.

Britain's former world champion Lennox Lewis has led the tributes.

"He made history in the greatest era ever of heavyweight boxing and his contributions to the sport are profound and immeasurable.

"He will be missed but never forgotten. May he rest in peace."

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